“God hadn’t been idle while my father’s words and actions had threatened my sanity and bruised dreams. He hadn’t been passive when rage had battered me and fear had shackled me,” Shelby emotionally realizes in Michele Phoenix’s love story, "In Broken Places." This three hundred and sixty-seven page softbound book has a photograph of a young girl and grown woman peering over a fence on the front cover. With no profanity or overtly sexual scenes, the story is targeted toward young adults, especially Christian women in the twenty to thirty year old age group that could relate to the topic of family violence and motherhood. After the narrative, there is a short note from the author about child abuse, discussion questions and an author biography. In this romantic tome, single, independent Shelby Davis is a thirty-five year old teacher in Illinois whose traumatic childhood upbringing has molded and shaped her to be a sarcastic but witty, introverted, fearful woman who is reluctant of any type of relationship or companionship. Due to her mentally and physically abusive father and insecure, frightened mother, Shelby and her older brother wear the scars of self-doubt, self-abasement and inner turmoil into adulthood even though their father left them while they were children. The solace they find in one another through banding together against their mean father, escaping to their Huddle Hut in the attic and using witty bantering helps each as they look for answers to life’s challenging questions. However, when the father dies and leaves all his worldly possessions including precocious four year old Shayla to his long-forgotten daughter, Shelby’s battered past haunts her again, questioning if she can actually become a good mother to the sweet child. To start afresh, Shelby and the youngster move to the small city of Kandern, Germany so she can teach English at a Christian missionary school. When Shelby is introduced to Scott, another teacher at the school, as his future wife, her emotional walls are built instantly, even though the awkward gentleman ardently pursues her. Through italicized flashbacks, Shelby must not only deal with why she adamantly rejects close relationships out of fear, but how to deal with her new-found care and love of Shayla. Although there is predictability in the blossoming interaction between Scott and Shelby, the love story is tender, touching and realistic while the grown woman is challenged to organize the school’s C.S. Lewis theatrical production, Shadowlands. Between both lighthearted and heart-breaking approaches to the tragic topic of child abuse, the yarn brings both smiles and tears to the reader throughout the emotional turmoil of dealing with one’s sad yet redeeming past. This review will be posted on http://www.bookpleasures.com and http://www.amazon.com.
I thought this was going to be a hard book to get “into”. It began with lots of phrases like “cotton-candy clouds” and “staccato consonants” and “shrilling vowels” that seemed to fill the first few chapters. I found myself saying “get on with the story already.” And just about that time, Michele Phoenix did just that. She weaves this beautiful story of brokenness and healing that came from the most unlikely and most hurtful places. Any reader will grow to love Shelby and marvel at Shayla. Once I got into it the story, it only took me two days to finish the book. This story is one of hope and trust and healing, not only finding the good in others, but in ourselves. Michele Phoenix tells a story we can all relate to...one that doesn’t offer a happy ever after, but hope in our brokenness.